Learn About Quality Assurance

The History and Importance of Quality Assurance

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••• Quality Assurance. Thomas Barwick/Iconica/Getty Images

Quality assurance is a methodology used in the development of products or services to ensure a level of quality in production. It's also referred to as quality control—QA or QC for short.

Quality assurance encompasses the processes and procedures that systematically monitor different aspects of a service or facility. It detects and corrects problems or variances that fall outside established standards or requirements.

Most businesses utilize some form of quality assurance in production, from manufacturers of consumer packaged goods to software development companies. Quality assurance might even be represented by distinct departments or divisions that focus solely on these issues.

Purposes of Quality Assurance

A business is able to build a positive reputation for reliability and consistency when it ensures a level of consistent quality in its products or services. This bolsters consumer trust and confidence in the business and it helps the business compete with others in the same market.

The History of Quality Assurance

Early concepts of quality control can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the rise of guilds. A craftsman could access a network of connections with other craftsmen and suppliers by joining a guild organization. He could then benefit from the reputation of the guild based on standards of quality in the products produced by its members.

Then the Industrial Revolution brought about more specialization in labor as well as mechanization. Quality assurance evolved and quality assurance practices began to be established around specialized tasks performed by workers. The need to monitor the quality of components being produced by large numbers of workers required inspectors with the introduction of mass production.

Statistical quality control or statistical process control was developed during this period, utilizing statistical methods to help ensure quality. The modern concept of quality assurance was introduced during World War II when the inspection and testing of munitions became vital to war efforts.

International Quality Assurance Standards

An international federation of organizations known as the International Organization for Standardization was founded in 1947. ISO is made up of standards organizations that represent over 100 countries. It maintains an effective quality assurance system for manufacturing and service industries. 

ISO 9000 is a set of standards first published in 1987. It's designed to help organizations meet statutory and regulatory requirements for product quality as well as consumer needs.

ISO Certification 

Manufacturers and businesses can become certified by fulfilling the requirements defined in ISO 9001. This offers independent confirmation of an organization's adherence to quality standards. More than one million organizations around the world are ISO 9001 certified. 

The management of an organization develops goals for quality assurance in order to be certified. These are codified into policies and guidelines specific to its business and manufacturing processes, often with the assistance of a consultant. These guidelines are then implemented by the organization and the systems are assessed for compliance with ISO 9000 standards.

The results of the assessment identify any areas that fall outside of the standards and that the organization must address within a given time frame. The organization is certified after standards are met.